'Hearts go out to those families:' Helicopter company in Grand Canyon crash based in Wash.
The helicopter company, Papillon Airways, is headquartered in Kirkland, Wash.
Founder, Elling Halvorson, said his company remains a safe sight-seeing business.
“Our heart goes out to those families, and we’ve prayed for those families,” said Halvorson at his Woodinville home on Monday.
Halvorson, 86, started the sight-seeing company in 1965, after completing a construction project in the Grand Canyon.
Halvorson said the company began with just two aircraft and has grown to more than 70. He said they fly nearly 600,000 passengers per year.
While sight-seeing tours through the Grand Canyon remain the company’s primary focus, Papillon’s aircraft are also used for search and rescue missions, and in fire fighting response.
In 1996, Halvorson said he helped start TOPS, the Tour Operators Program of Safety.
“I was concerned about the amount of accidents that were happening in the industry,” said Halvorson.
He has long been involved in regulation and legislation measures to make helicopters safer.
The far majority of Papillon’s passengers experience a safe ride.
However, according to the National Transportation Safety Board’s database, Papillon aircraft have been involved in 19 accident reports in the last 25 years.
In 2001, six people were killed when a Papillon helicopter crashed in the Grand Canyon.
“Eighteen years ago we had a bad accident and we learned some things from that, and we’ll learn again,” said Halvorson.
The NTSB said they’ll remain on scene investigating for a couple more days and will publish a preliminary crash report within ten business days.
The FAA has issued a temporary flight restriction in the Grand Canyon.
The NTSB said that restriction should be lifted in the next few days.